Fighting to be free, p.31
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       Fighting to Be Free, p.31
 

         Part #1 of Fighting to Be Free series by Kirsty Moseley

  I gulped and shook my head. “No, but I don’t want one anyway.”

  He scoffed and reached under his seat, pulling out a black duffel bag. Dread washed over me as he unzipped it. He pulled open the bag and motioned for me to take one of the guns nestled inside.

  “Brett, really, I don’t want one,” I protested.

  He shook his head firmly, his hard eyes telling me that it wasn’t actually an offer but an order. “You’re coming to the front with me, you need to be armed,” he demanded.

  The front? Damn it!

  I sighed and looked in the bag, seeing about ten guns in there, ranging in size from shotgun to small pistol. Shoving my hand in, I chose one of the smaller ones, a black handgun. I knew how guns worked, I’d been taught how to use one, but I’d never actually fired one at a real person. Usually these were carried just for show, so that people wouldn’t think about a double cross. Hopefully this deal would be no different.

  Tonight Brett was meeting with the head of a rival syndicate from New Jersey. The Lazlo family had mob connections and was known everywhere across the U.S. In this meeting they were trying to make various deals—drugs and guns, mostly. Brett and the Lazlos had never met up before. Brett was hard-core and well connected, but the guy he was meeting with, Dominic Lazlo, was in a different league entirely. Hopefully they’d be able to come to some sort of deal; if they could, then they would form a partnership of sorts, making Brett part of the largest crime syndicate on this side of the country.

  “Why am I coming to the front? Doesn’t Ed usually do that?” I inquired. Usually I would just stand at the back and look intimidating, but now it appeared that I would actually be involved in the talks, too.

  Brett rolled his eyes as if I’d said something stupid. “I need this guy to be impressed with me. Having my best man there looks good for me. I don’t think you understand the high regard you’re held in by your peers, Kid.”

  I frowned, wishing this night were over with already. “But I’m not gonna be here starting tomorrow, so what’s the point of me getting involved?”

  His face hardened. “Don’t mention that in front of Dominic. I haven’t told people you’re leaving, so as far as tonight goes, you’re on my team to stay,” he said. “I really want to form this partnership with him. If I do, then my income will practically double overnight. Not only will I have all my usual customers, but I’ll have the ones that he can send my way, too. It’s a two way street; usually if people come to me for guns I tell them to find someone else, but now I’ll pass them on to Dominic, and in return he’ll pass the boosts to me. I’ll also get the benefit of a reduced-price supplier. He shifts more drugs and gets a bigger territory with people to do all the dirty work for him, and I get a higher profit margin. It’s a win-win situation.”

  I nodded in understanding. It all sounded good and, to be honest, they’d both be crazy not to agree; there were no obvious downsides. “But what about when the orders come flooding in and you have no one to fill them?”

  He frowned, sucking his teeth with his tongue. “I’ll sort something out. You never know, maybe you’ll be done traveling around the world sooner than expected, and you’ll want to come back to work. I could make it worth your while. If this deal goes through, then I’ll double your nightly boost fee, how about that?” he offered rather hopefully.

  I smiled apologetically. He’d tried everything to get me to stay: money, respect, more power within his organization, and threats of violence. But none of it was enough. I wanted out, and after tonight, I was.

  “I’d recommend you try and get Vincent on your team,” I suggested. That night that I’d worked with him, he’d been an incredible booster. He talked too much for my liking, but I would definitely recommend the guy.

  “Who’s Vincent?”

  “Oh right, I mean Dodger,” I corrected myself when I realized that Brett probably didn’t even know his real name. “Man, that has to be the worst nickname in the history of bad nicknames.” I laughed.

  Brett grinned and nodded in agreement. “Yeah, if it comes to it, then I’ll talk to him. Maybe Ray could train up another little protégé for me, too,” he mused, patting me on the knee. We lapsed into silence and I looked out the tinted windows, watching the streets whiz past in a blur. My eyes were heavy; I could actually do with going to sleep instead of this.

  “You know, I’m really sad that you’re leaving,” Brett stated, seemingly out of nowhere.

  I turned back to look at him to see a thoughtful expression on his face. “Yeah, but I never really wanted to do all this in the first place,” I muttered.

  He nodded. “Your dad would have been proud of you for getting out and starting over like this. He never really liked this life much, either.” I looked at him curiously when he mentioned my dad. “He wanted out too, but he wasn’t gonna get it. The man he worked for wouldn’t have let him go easily.”

  “No?”

  He shook his head. “No, he was too good at what he did; they wouldn’t have wanted to lose his talent from their team. You definitely got that from him. I’ll be sorry to see you go, and not just for your skills, either.” He smiled affectionately. “I’ll actually miss you a lot.”

  I squirmed a little in my seat, uncomfortable with the emotion he was exuding. “I’ll miss you too, Brett.” That wasn’t actually a lie; he was a great guy, and I’d always liked him.

  He smiled wistfully, fiddling with the buttons on his suit jacket. “I always thought you’d take over from me one day. I never had kids of my own, so I kind of always thought of you as my kid. If I had to hand my business to anyone, it’d be you.”

  I laughed nervously. “I’m too good-looking to be your kid,” I joked, trying to break the intense mood.

  He laughed and rolled his eyes. “And too conceited.”

  I chuckled. “And too smart.”

  He raised one eyebrow, still grinning. “Don’t push it, I don’t like you that much.” Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out a piece of paper and offered it to me. “I got you a little going-away present.”

  I took the paper cautiously, wondering what it was going to be. When I opened it up I was confronted by a bank account number and password. “What’s this?”

  He smiled. “I opened you an offshore bank account to help you get started with your girl. I know you always wanted your own car garage. Well, there’s enough in there to help you buy one.”

  I gasped in shock. “Brett, I can’t take that,” I protested, holding the paper back out to him.

  He shook his head and pushed my hand away. “Kid, just take it. I hope it makes you happy.”

  “I want to go straight, I don’t want to take this and owe you anything,” I argued. If I took that money, then he’d always have a hold over me, I’d always be in his debt.

  He scoffed. “There’s no strings attached. That’s yours. Just take it and spend it on whatever you want. I know you want out, and I respect you for that. That’s a parting-ways gift, kind of like severance pay.”

  I opened my mouth to make another protest, but the car pulled up into a workshop parking lot. Immediately my business face snapped on; the deal came first, I could argue with him about the money later. I shoved the paper into the pocket of my jeans, smiling as my fingers brushed over the panties I’d confiscated from Ellie earlier.

  Brett sat forward in his seat, telling Ed to turn the car around and park near the door just in case. Glancing out the window, I noted that the other people were already here. There were four expensive-looking cars parked even though it was half past eleven at night. Lights were already shining in the workshop, casting an eerie glow over the parking lot. I spotted a couple of Brett’s guys getting out of their cars and heading over toward us. Another car pulled in behind us.

  “Gonna put that away?” Brett asked, laughing as he nodded down at my hands.

  I looked down curiously only to see that I was still holding the little handgun. Wincing, I nodded, scooting forward in my seat and shov
ing it down the back of my jeans, covering it with my jacket. Brett exited the car, straightening his jacket as he spoke quietly with a couple of his guys. I climbed out and stood next to him, forcing my harder personality to take over. Now wasn’t the time to start thinking about how much I didn’t want to be here; this was my last job as Kid Cole, so I might as well make it convincing.

  “Mr. Lazlo’s already inside, he has about eight men with him,” Wesley announced.

  Brett nodded. “Then I’ll take eight, too. Tell Ed and Enzo to stay outside.” He looked at me and motioned toward the workshop. “Let’s go make the deal of a lifetime then, Kid.”

  As we walked into the workshop, I cast my eyes around quickly, taking in my surroundings, sussing out the unfamiliar people. A guy in his midforties sat at a wooden workbench in the middle of the room. His shaven head glistened in the bright light. He stood, smiling warmly at us as we headed in. He was wearing plain jeans and a pale blue Ralph Lauren polo shirt. He wasn’t even that tall, maybe about five foot eight, a little stocky. He didn’t look particularly intimidating at all, the complete opposite of what I imagined a mob boss to look like.

  The guy next to him was obviously his son or family member because they looked exactly the same, just years apart. Seven guys stood behind them, all wearing the same threatening, menacing expression. As we all walked in, I could practically feel the tension in the air, the uncertainty and unease as everyone assessed each other with calculating eyes.

  Brett spoke first. “Mr. Lazlo, it’s nice to finally meet you,” he stated, strutting confidently into the room—which meant that I had to go with him because I was his wingman for the night. Pulling my shoulders back, I kept my eyes trained for any sort of trouble and followed Brett into the lion’s den.

  * * *

  Talking. Boring planning talking. My eyes were stinging from tiredness now, but I couldn’t rub them like I wanted; instead, I sat straight, keeping my face in a neutral position as Brett and Dominic argued over territories and percentages of profits. I was at the bench next to Brett. Dominic and his son were sitting opposite us as they discussed things that seemed to have taken hours already. I’d had to chime in a few times about boosting, telling them how many cars it was possible to take in one night, how many staff would be needed, and things like that. Other than that I just had to sit there and look confident. In reality, the most prominent thing on my mind was the gun that was digging into the small of my back to the point of cutting into my skin. I desperately wanted to reach behind me and pull it out, but I didn’t dare touch it in case the seven guys who’d come with Dominic thought I was trying something. They were already watching everyone intently, fingers twitching, as if waiting for one of us to make a move. Clearly there was going to be no trust in this partnership.

  Finally things seemed to be wrapping up. Brett and Dominic were both smiling as everything was being ironed out. The more I listened, the more I realized just how good this deal was for Brett. He’d be turning over a hell of a lot more money from now on.

  Brett slapped me on the back, grinning. “That’s great then. I think this’ll all work out exceptionally well and will prove to be a lucrative partnership,” he concluded.

  Dominic smiled, nodding in agreement. “Absolutely, this has been a good meeting.” He turned to one of his guys and nodded. “The sampler?” The guy immediately stepped forward, setting a black leather briefcase on the workbench in front of Dominic and popping the catch. Dominic smiled and lifted the lid, turning the case to face us. My insides squirmed with unease because I’d never seen so much cocaine all in one place.

  Brett smiled, leaning forward with a glint in his eye. “Excellent. You mind if I try it?” he asked, pulling out a little switchblade from his pocket. Dominic waved his hand and shrugged, obviously giving the go-ahead. I watched as Brett picked up one of the parcels, making a little cut in the side of the rectangular packet. He dug his finger in there to get a small amount and then rubbed it on his gums, nodding appreciatively. “It’s definitely good quality,” he confirmed. He nodded to Shaun, who was hovering behind us, and Shaun stepped forward with a black duffel bag, handing it to Brett.

  I was mentally counting down the minutes now. This was almost over; once he paid there would just be some pleasantries, and then I could finally go home and flop into bed. I glanced at my watch; it was almost two in the morning. We’d been here for so long that my ass was starting to get numb.

  Brett handed over the duffel bag. I didn’t need to ask to know that it would be full of cash to pay for the drugs. Damien, Dominic’s son, looked in the bag, rummaging through it before he nodded to his dad and they both stood up. “Well, it was good doing business with you. I’ll pass your details on to the relevant people, so things should get moving quickly with the cars and stuff. That kind of thing is always in high demand. Let me know when you want more,” Dominic stated, nodding at the briefcase as Brett snapped it shut and stood, too.

  I pushed myself to my feet and extended my arm, shaking hands with them, glad it was finally over.

  Suddenly an enormous bang sounded to my left, causing dust and splinters of wood and plaster to fly across the room. I jumped, instinctively ducking and protecting my head as a ruckus started and numerous pairs of feet thundered into the workshop. My eyes darted in that direction and I saw people dressed in black running into the warehouse, guns raised.

  I barely had time to wonder what was going on before one of them shouted, “Police, you’re under arrest!”

  Panic made me freeze on the spot. I watched with wide eyes as more and more of them burst into the room from all sides. I groaned in defeat, knowing that everything was ruined. I was totally screwed.

  That was when the gunshots started.

  CHAPTER 29

  BANGS ECHOED OFF the walls, almost deafening me as a gun went off near me. I crouched down quickly, ducking behind the workbench unsure what to do. I watched with wide eyes as the people from Lazlo’s organization instigated a full-on firefight with the police.

  “Fuck!” I hissed. I guess I’d never get a happy ending.

  Everyone was shouting, gunshots were blasting, people were scuffling and fighting around me. I could barely move.

  Brett ran past and took cover behind a huge metal tool cabinet. He had his gun drawn as he looked around the corner of the cabinet, sending off a couple of shots in the direction of the police.

  I knew I was supposed to help, and usually if there was trouble I would be there instantly, not hesitating to get involved. This was different, though; those weren’t thugs or bad people who I could beat the crap out of, those were cops. There was no way I was drawing my gun and firing on innocent police officers. I was a booster who did a few bad things, but shooting a gun at someone? Not a chance of that happening.

  My wild eyes flicked over to the right. Shaun was crouched a little way away, hiding behind a smaller desk that he’d flipped onto its side. He looked terrified. He had his gun drawn too, but he wasn’t firing; his hands were shaking as he looked over and caught my gaze. He nodded at his gun, but I quickly shook my head, telling him not to get involved. The Lazlos had started this; there was no way they were going to win even with our help. The police were wearing body armor; their trained eyes were making short work of the people who were fighting against them. The Lazlos were dropping like flies. I could already see Damien down on the floor; blood seeping from a wound in his neck. Dominic was kneeling over him, his face contorted in rage and grief. He let out a gut-wrenching primal scream and fired randomly at anyone who moved.

  Everything seemed to be happening in slow motion; the shots were so loud that each one made me flinch as I stayed behind the desk. I debated making a run for it. There was a door off to the side. While everyone was distracted I could dash for the door and try to get the hell out of here, but I knew there was probably no chance of me making it; a bullet would get me as soon as I moved away from the desk.

  Suddenly Dominic jerked, his hand flailing as
he fell backward awkwardly. I gulped and watched as blood slowly trickled out of a hole on the side of his head. The smells of blood and urine filled the air as he lost control of his bodily functions. I gagged, pressing my hand over my mouth. Things were calming down now; the shots were only coming from one place.

  Brett.

  A couple more shots sounded, but then everything went quiet, so quiet that if it weren’t for the shrill ringing that sounded from my eardrums, I would have thought I’d gone deaf. I breathed a sigh of relief that he’d conceded. Hopefully his lawyer would fix this somehow; I had no idea how, but hopefully he could make some sort of deal. I kept that in mind as I heard the sound of shuffling feet behind me.

  “Show me your hands!” a voice demanded. Gulping, I instantly put my hands up, making sure they were visible over the top of the desk so that the cops could see that I wasn’t a threat. Shaun did the same thing, sliding his gun out across the floor to show that he was unarmed. From the corner of my eye, I saw a couple of other people put their hands up, too—three more from Brett’s team, and one I recognized as one of Dominic’s goons.

  “Keep them where I can see them. If you move even an inch I won’t hesitate to shoot!” the cop growled.

  I closed my eyes, hating this whole situation. I was in so much trouble; there was no way out of this at all. My mind flicked to Ellie as disappointment washed over me because everything we’d planned would be ruined. There was not a chance we were getting to go away tomorrow now. I’d ruined everything.

  A guy in full uniform stepped tentatively around the corner, his gun pointed at me. “On your stomach! Put your hands on the back of your head,” he ordered as I saw someone advance toward Shaun, instructing the same thing.

  I nodded quickly, lowering myself down onto the dusty floor, my hands linking together on the back of my head. A weight suddenly pressed between my shoulder blades. I winced, groaning as the guy kneeled on my back, almost crushing my ribs. The gun was pulled from the back of my jeans as I struggled to breathe. “Do you have any other weapons?”

  I tried to shake my head, but it was impossible where I was pinned to the floor. “No,” I croaked.

  Something snapped around my right wrist, and the click of the handcuffs made my heart hurt. I closed my eyes and silently cursed everything and everyone. When my hands were pulled behind my back, my other hand was cuffed too, and I was hoisted to my feet.

 
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